Can You Use HEX Codes for CMYK Color?

Let’s say you’ve been working on a design in Photoshop and are ready to create a mock-up in Placeit. In Photoshop, your board is set to use CMYK, yet you notice that Placeit’s preferred color code system is HEX. Can you use HEX codes for CMYK color, or do you need to go back to the drawing board?

The color systems for HEX and CMYK are vastly different. A HEX code is a digital representation of color based on RGB (red, green, and blue) values, whereas CMKY is based on cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Designing for both print and digital use can sometimes be confusing, especially when color gets involved. Keep reading to learn more about using HEX codes for CMYK colors and how to convert colors when necessary.

Can You Use HEX Codes for CMYK?

As a general rule, HEX codes are used for RGB colors, not CMYK. This is because a HEX is essentially an RGB code converted for use in digital coding spaces such as HTML and CSS. While it is possible to use CMYK colors by converting them to HEX, you will need to convert them to RGB first.

On the flipside, if you are trying to convert HEX codes used on your website into CMYK colors, you may not get the results you were hoping for. This is because the color range for CMYK is much smaller than that of HEX and RGB.

For example, if you take a bright, vibrant green like #55FF00 and attempt to convert it to CMYK, your print results are going to appear different than what you see on the screen. While it may look great online, your printed material may not match up.

What is the Difference Between CMYK and RGB?

CMYK has a smaller color range, but why is that? Well, both RGB and CMYK were created for different purposes.

The RGB color model is an additive system. As a general rule, RGB is meant for the screen. This means that when all of the colors are mixed together, you will get the color white because it uses light to produce color.

As the light is emitted through the screen, the colors are blended in the eyes of the viewer, creating a wide range of colors.

On the flipside, CMYK is a substractive color model, meaning it absorbs the light. For example, if you mixed all the colors together with this model, you would get black. This is the preferred color code system for any printed materials because it has more to do with mixing pigments or dyes.

How Do Hex Codes Work?

A HEX code is a six-digit alphanumeric code that digitally represents color in RGB format. The code is split into three sections, with every two digits of the code representing a different piece of information.

For example, let’s take a look at the HEX code #55FF00 again.

  • The first two digits in the code (55) represent the amount of red color.
  • The second two digits appear as the letters FF. These represent the amount of green color present.
  • The last two digits (00) represent the amount of blue color present.

These are based on values for the RGB color code on a scale from 0 to 225. However, because many computers use 8-bit operational codes, the RGB color codes are divided into two-digit codes, which results in a six-digit HEX code.

How to Convert CMYK to RGB

If you would like to use CMKY colors for HEX codes, you will first need to convert the color to RGB. Keep in mind that RGB has a wider gamut of colors compared to CMYK. This means that it should be fairly easy to find the color you want in RGB format.  However, if you are trying to switch from RGB to CMYK, you may have a harder time.

There are several ways you can go about converting your colors from CMYK to RGB. One of the easiest methods is to use an image editor like Photoshop or GIMP. Simply open your file in the program and switch the color mode from CMYK to RGB.

Another way to convert colors is to use an online color converter like RapidTables. Just plug in your CMYK percentages and it will output the equivalent RGB color code. Once your colors are converted to RGB, they can easily be used as HEX codes on your website.

Final Thoughts

Working with color can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to match what you see online to printed materials. Hopefully, this article gave you a better understanding of how to go about using HEX codes for CMYK colors so that your design process flows more smoothly.